Metropolis II” will open at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art next week

Okay, this is very COOL…. !  Maybe I could use my old Hot Wheels for this!

metropolis II scale cityscape

Artist Chris Burden has created either a highly efficient  and fully working model of a frenetic cityscape, which sounds like his original  goal, or the best Hot Wheels track ever made. Except that the 1,100 cars racing  around 18 roadways at scale speeds of up to 230 mph are not Hot Wheels. Burden  made all 1,100 of them himself, just like the rest of his “Metropolis II”  installation, which will open to the public on Jan. 14 at the Los Angeles County  Museum of Art.

“I love hearing that the cars are going 230 mph [scale speed],” Burden says  in the video he produced of the city. “That makes me very hopeful for the  future. That’s about the speed they should be going, not 23.4 mph, which is what  my BMW says I average driving around L.A.”

The cars lack the detail and flash of Hot Wheels, too, but that could be  because they are all melded into one big, thrumming urban landscape, so  anonymity comes with the territory. In addition to the cars there is a network  of 13 HO-scale trains. All of it weaves in and out of a series of high-rise  buildings made of everything from glass, ceramic and steel to Lincoln Logs. The  whole thing covers an area 28 feet long, 19 feet wide and it rises almost 10  feet high. It’s art.

The cars are lifted by 0.5-hp motors turning a big conveyor-belt track six  lanes wide. The custom-manufactured die-cast cars have magnets embedded  underneath. The magnets on the conveyor belt and the magnets on the cars enable  the cars to be brought to the top of the sculpture without a physical contact  between the belt and cars. At the top of the sculpture, the cars are released  one at a time. There are fast lanes and sections where several lanes slow to a  crawl, just as in a real city.

“What’s really stressful is that stop-and-go,  low-speed, high-speed, where it speeds up and slows down,” Burden says. “That is  highly stressful. It’s different than cruising along on an open-road at constant  speed.”

And it’s not just the traffic that might get you.

“The noise is real amazing in terms of how it produces a level of tension,  too.”

That was Burden’s plan; not to recreate a diorama of a city or other setting,  as you might see at a model railroad exhibit.

“It wasn’t about trying to make this scale model of something. It was more to  evoke the energy of a city.”

Burden sees it as something of a snapshot in time, too.

“It’s about to be over, the idea that a car runs free. Those days are about  to close. So it’s a little like making a model of New York City at the turn of  the last century and you’re modeling horse buggies everywhere and the  automobile’s about to arrive. So something else is about to arrive.”

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